(Enlarged Photo)

William Huggins (1820-1884),

Sleeping Leopard

Watercolour and gouache. Signed, date 1867

William Huggins was perhaps the greatest master of animal portraiture in the Victorian era, a technical innovator in painting technique and a man with a surprisingly modern sensibility towards the animals he sensitively and accurately depicted.

Huggins was a versatile and creative man with many interests, ranging from architecture - he was instrumental in setting up the S.P.AB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) - to playing the guitar and collecting and decoration of china.

His devotion to the study of animals was intense. His studies were made from life - in farmyards and in Liverpool Zoo. At one point, he even took to following a travelling menagerie from town to town in order to observe and draw the animals.

Our leopard, depicted sleeping in a beautifully idealised sylvan environment, was probably, in reality, housed in a small cage - a point that wouldn't have been lost on the animal-loving Huggins.

His gravestone read: "A Just and Compassionate Man, who would neither tread on a worm nor cringe to an Emperor".
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